Japanese missions against Nadzab
November 6-9, 1943
November 6, 1943
Ki-43 Oscars of the
248th Sentai joined with the 13th Sentai to escort Ki-21 Sally bombers
in an attack on the airbase at Nadzab. The 59th and 78th Sentai were also
involved. The bombing was successful and the bombers got away without being
intercepted by American fighters. U.S. fighters were in the area but the
Japanese were too high and far away for them to intercept. In addition to
the bombing at Nadzab, flights of Hayabusas swept in to strafe the airstrips
at Nadzab and Gusap. Four attacked at Nadzab and three at Gusap. The bombing
and strafing at Nadzab destroyed two P-39's and damaged 23 others to some extent.
The commander of the 248th Sentai's 3rd chutai, 1 st Lt. Hideo Ota, was
killed and 2nd Lt. Yoshihari Mayekawa was injured.
November 7, 1943
Nine Type 97 bombers targeted Nadzab bombing from 6000-6500 meters (19,700
to 21,000 feet). The Type 1 fighters of the 13th Sentai provided close escort
while Muraoka led the 248th as top cover. The Japanese plan called for a rendezvous
near Alexishafen at 2000 meters (6600 feet) followed by a climb to altitude
approaching the target. This mission did not go at all well. Mechanical problems
with some of the 248th Sentai aircraft delayed the scheduled rendezvous. While
flying over the sea on the approach, the Japanese were spotted by four P-40Ns
from the 8 th Fighter Squadron, which were flying a fighter sweep. Veteran
flight leader Capt. Clyde Bennett led these four P-40s down from six o'clock
high and caught a reported twenty Japanese fighters by complete surprise. The
Americans claimed three victories in a single pass. Three P-40s zoomed away
and returned to base without a scratch. One pilot sparred briefly with the
Hayabusas and returned with fragments from an explosive bullet in his fuel
tank. Two Japanese fighters appear to have been lost in this encounter, both
were from the 248th Sentai.
The Japanese tried to organize their formation as they gained altitude and
crossed the Finnisterre Range to carry out the bombing attack. The Americans
were well prepared and after the bombing attack three separate formations converged
on the Japanese. Eight P-39Qs (40th FS) and eight P-47Ds (36th and 342nd
FS) hit the attackers, which were reported to consist of nine bombers and just
ten or so fighters. The three American flights contacted the Japanese in rapid
succession nearly simultaneously. While the Hayabusas were able to distract
some of the fighters, many pressed their attacks on the bombers. Two bombers
went down under these attacks. Ki-21 6323 exploded
in spectacular fashion. Its tail with a stylized yellow marking resembling
a “4” and part of a wing landed on a hillside while most of the
bomber ended up on another hillside on the opposite side of a valley. Three
of the Hayabusas, which were lost, probably also fell near Nadzab and were
swallowed up by the jungle without a trace. These were aircraft of the 13th
Sentai and 59th Sentai.
The Japanese claimed a P-40 and five “F4Fs” shot down. Two P-39s
were shot down and one P-40 and three P-47s damaged. The bombing damaged aircraft
and installations on the ground but nothing like the sixty aircraft destroyed
that the Japanese claimed. Five Japanese fighters were lost. The 248 th lost
two pilots killed and two wounded. The bombers suffered heavily. In addition
to two shot down outright, three landed at Madang with heavy damage and four
ditched off the coast. The bombers that landed at Madang were bombed and destroyed
by American bombers two days later. Shortly thereafter the 14th Sentai was withdrawn from New Guinea.
Also escorting were Ki-61 Tonys from the 68th
On the ground at Nadzab Airfield, 16 American aircraft were
destroyed or damaged during the raid, and 14 Japanese
planes were claimed shot down. Destroyed on the ground was P-39 "Nanette" Number 74.
Edward Park writes in Nanette, page 180, 182:
"On the next day 18 Japanese Betty Bombers [Ki-21 Sally] came high over Nadzab and dropped their load of antipersonnel "daisy cutters" with devastating accuracy... and walked toward a thick black column of smoke fed by savage flames in one of our revetments. Nanette's revetment. She [P-39 "Nanette" Number 74] had received a direct hit. It took her half an hour to burn... Two other planes had been damaged; the alert shack was shredded by shrapnel; six pilots discovered that they had been nicked; and one crew chief had become a soggy red bundle of clothes at the bottom of a bomb scorched slit trench. It was the crew chief for [P-39 Airacobra] number 75 - the same man who had helped me get out of it when I had been shot up in that big raid on Moresby, all those months ago."
November 9, 1943
On the ninth the 248th Sentai could mount only eighteen fighters while providing
support for other fighter units attacking Nadzab. Penetrating to
the vicinity of Lae the 248 th lost three pilots one of whom, Sgt. Major Hiroshi
Yoshida, bailed out and became a prisoner of war. Yoshida reported he was shot
down by two P-40s that shot off part of his right wing. He was probably the
victim of 2 nd Lt. Carl Weaver of the 35 th FS. Twenty-seven P-40s and P-39s
of the 35 th, 36th and 40th Fighter Squadrons claimed six OSCARS with only
one P-40 crash-landed and two P-39s damaged.
January 15, 1944
JAAF: Ki-43 Oscars from the 59th Sentai under the command of Captain Nango conduct a fighter sweep over Nadzab Airfield. Over the target area, intercepted by P-40 Warhawks. Captain Nango claims three shot down and his wingman one.
References Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units And Their Aces 1931-1945 page 44
January 16, 1944
JAAF: Ki-43 Oscars from the 59th Sentai and 63rd Sentai plus Ki-61 Tony from the 68th Sentai conduct a sweep over Nadzab Airfield. Over the target, intercepted by P-40 Warhawks that claim 19 confirmed kills and 3 probables. This combat set the wartime record for 5th Fighter Command for victories claimed by a single squadron during a single engagement. Five Ki-43 Oscars from the 63rd Sentai are lost in their first combat in New Guinea. References Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units And Their Aces 1931-1945 page 44
Sentai "Hard Luck" Fighter Unit by Richard Dunn